Originally from a seaside town in Estonia, Jaanika Maettikas knew Darwin was the place for her the moment she arrived.

“The Territory is where I’m happiest. It’s my home away from home. This is where I belong now.”

When Estonian Jaanika Maettikas first came to Australia in 2011 to live out her Home and Away dream she planned to work and travel all around the country.

But the moment she arrived in Darwin after a brief stint in Perth, she fell in love with the place and didn’t venture any further.

“Darwin has this kind of power over you,” said Jaanika, now 29. “It’s magical. Once you experience living here you never want to leave.  I know, I’ve tried to go a few times.”

Originally travelling on a working holiday visa, Jaanika returned to her family and friends in Estonia twice in the following two years, and at one stage didn’t think she’d ever find a way to return to the Territory.

“I thought I’d run out of options. The working holiday visa only lasts so long and I was back home in Estonia, thinking that was the end of my dream. I missed Darwin and my friends terribly.

“Then I got accepted into the Australian Institute of Commerce and Technology in Perth on a student visa. I really wanted to return to Darwin, but studying was a stepping stone to the Territory.”

At the end of 2015, with one semester left, Jaanika moved back to Darwin where she finished her studies remotely. She went back to work for the Irish bar Shenannigans and was sponsored to apply for residency.

“I just had to get back,” said Jaanika, who is now Executive Assistant and Marketing Manager for the Segue Group. “I missed everything about the place – the laidback lifestyle, the people, my friends, work mates and the natural beauty and those spectacular sunsets. Even now watching the sun slip into the sea at Nightcliff is my Monday evening routine to clear my head after work.”

Jaanika said more than five years of living in the Territory has changed her “for the better”.

“This place and its people have had a really positive effect on me,” she said. “Back in Estonia I would never have sat down and talked to a stranger for half an hour or said hi to people I don’t know in the street. This happens all the time, here. I love it.

“There are so many opportunities to have a great life in the Territory if you’re prepared to work hard and go for it.”

Jaanika admits missing her family and friends back in Estonia. “If I could pick them all up and bring them to the Northern Territory I would. A few of my relatives have come to visit and they were blown away by the beauty of the place.”

So which place is home? “That’s a hard one. Estonia is the place where I grew up and my family live, but the Territory is where I’m happiest. It is my home away from home. This is where I belong now.”